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Passing notes on tax reform

On June 17, in the last days of the legislative session, Portland’s Green Party Representative John Eder traded a vote for the reformed budget (sans $250 million in borrowing) for a small, but some say important, gesture from Governor Baldacci. Eder had held out his vote for tax reform before the end of the session, along with a handful of Democratic representatives. But as pressure mounted to pass the budget, Eder watched members fold and vote in favor without securing a commitment to address the tax model. Only Eder and Representative Joanne Twomey (D-Biddeford) remained. Twomey never voted for the budget. But Eder did, in exchange for a letter from Baldacci.

Eder negotiated with Democratic Majority Leader Glenn Cummings for written commitment from the governor to hold a special legislative session on tax reform. He then detailed the entire saga in a June 28 press release.

"I’m beaten for today," Eder wrote. "I voted for the majority budget fix because I have the commitment of the governor that we’ll meet soon in a special session to work for meaningful tax reform."

According to Kathleen McGee, the Tax Reform Campaign Director of the Maine Citizen Leadership Fund, Eder was only tangentially involved with the months of lobbying that led to a June 17 meeting with the Governor about tax reform. It was there, says MCLF’s McGee, that Baldacci agreed to a tax-reform session. According to McGee, representatives from Maine People’s Alliance, the Maine Center for Economic Policy, and the AARP were in attendance. Eder was not. Eder’s contribution, which McGee maintains was significant, was to dig in his heels in the Legislature and to get Baldacci’s promise in writing. McGee says Eder’s insistence on a commitment in writing was important to the process, even though it doesn’t nail down a date for the session, which was her beef with the verbal commitment the group already had.

"The letter was important to make sure there was zero wiggle room," she says. "But we were less than ecstatic about the brevity [of the letter]. We would like to have the date certain."

The letter was addressed to Cummings, who negotiated the deal with Eder. Eder was not available for comment prior to Phoenix press time.

Issue Date: July 8 - 14, 2005
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